Don’t go beyond 13th Amendment: Rajapaksa

Says safeguards available to the government of India in relation to land utilisation not available to Central government of Sri Lanka.

January 18, 2016 07:51 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 03:09 am IST - COLOMBO:

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who favoured, four years ago, the idea of “13 Amendment Plus” to address the Tamil question, on Sunday made it clear that that the scheme of devolution in the proposed constitution should not exceed what was being implemented under the Amendment of 1987.

He also called for re-examining the arrangement of clothing provincial councils with the subjects of police and land under the Amendment even though Tamil parties and groups had been complaining that the provincial councils were yet to be given the powers.

As the Amendment was based on the 1987 agreement between India and Sri Lanka, New Delhi has been urging Colombo to ensure early and full implementation of the 13 Amendment.

Modi’s call

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit in March last year, called upon the Sri Lankan government to go beyond the Amendment.

Addressing a gathering at a Buddhist temple here, Mr. Rajapaksa, who visited a Hindu place of worship on Friday on the occasion of Pongal, argued that the safeguards available to the Union government of India in relation to land utilisation were not available to the Central government of Sri Lanka. Quoting the Sri Lankan Supreme Court’s judgment of 2013, he wanted powers over state land to be vested in the Central government and not the provincial councils.

Police powers

On the issue of police powers, the former President said this could not be implemented in a “small country like Sri Lanka.” Indian states such as Tamil Nadu, which were “several times the size of Sri Lanka,” had only one police force. “We will be making a bad mistake if we try to implement systems that are in place on a sub-continental scale within the Union of India in a country smaller than some of the smallest Indian States,” he contended.

Since the introduction of the system of provincial councils nearly 30 years ago, the country had seen several governments but “no leader implemented the police powers accorded to the provincial councils through the 13th Amendment because that would have rendered the country ungovernable.”

Moots study of Indian statute

Mr. Rajapaksa suggested that a study be carried out of the Indian Constitution and powers vested in the institutions of Indian President, Parliament and Cabinet Ministers vis-à-vis States, and similar provisions with additional safeguards, if necessary, be made applicable in relation to the provincial councils of Sri Lanka.

On the larger subject of constitutional reforms, he was for a gradual approach, taking up the abolition of the executive presidency and electoral reforms initially and pursuing other aspects later.

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